In the latest censorship, the ASA concluded that the claim in the ad – “hydration for the nation” above a picture of the drink range with the words, “delicious and nutritious” was misleading due to presence of “the equivalent of four or five teaspoons of added sugar”.
Coca-Cola said the drink could be considered nutritious because of the presence of vitamins including vitamin C at 100 per cent of the guideline daily amount (GDA).
While the ASA noted that the 23g of sugar per 500ml serving allowed the range to be labelled as “low calorie”, an amount that was lower than some fruit juice drinks and skimmed milks, it said the drink’s marketing gave the impression of a nutritious drink that would not contain such levels of sugar.
“We considered that they would not expect a "nutritious" drink to have the equivalent of four or five teaspoons of added sugar,” the ASA wrote. “Because Vitaminwater contained about a quarter of a consumers GDA for sugar as well as the added vitamins, we considered that the description of Vitaminwater as ‘nutritious’ was misleading.”
In its defense, Coke said the drinks contained half of the proposed nutrient profile upper limits for sugar content of non-alcoholic drinks of 8g per 100ml, and that no regulation existed that prevented it from claiming the drinks were “nutritious”.
But the ASA said the fact that this level translated to 25 per cent of the GDA in a 500ml bottle would not be apparent to consumers who would think the 500ml bottle was a single serving.
More muscles than Brussels
In October, 2009, the ASA ruled against another Vitaminwater campaign that included claims like, “more muscles than brussels” and “keep perky when you’re feeling murky”.
Coca-Cola said much of the advertising was “humorous and irreverent” but on receiving several complaints the ASA investigated and found this to be an inadequate defense.
Last week the Australian consumer watchdog Choice criticised vitamin waters for making misleading nutrition claims.